Release: Family Members of Incarcerated People & Community Groups Rally to Demand the Legislature and Governor Address COVID-19 in Jails and Prisons
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 29th, 2020
Kenyatta Thompson, [email protected] | (860) 937-6094
Yan Snead, [email protected] | (518) 360-1534
Follow on Twitter @KatalCenter | #FreeThemNowCT #COVIDBehindBars
As Lawmakers Gather for Special Session, Family Members of Incarcerated People & Community Groups Rally to Demand the Legislature and Governor Address COVID-19 in Jails and Prisons
Families and Community Members Demand Action as 1,344 Incarcerated Individuals Have Tested Positive for COVID-19 in CT Jails and Prisons
With Virus Continuing to Spread, Governor Lamont and the Legislature Must Immediately Release Incarcerated People to Save Lives
For images and videos of the action, see our Twitter feed here.
Hartford, CT – Today, dozens of family members of incarcerated individuals and community groups convened outside of the Connecticut State Capitol for a rally and speak out to demand Governor Lamont and the legislature address the issue of COVID-19 in correctional facilities during this month’s special session.
The special session continues today, but glaringly missing from the agenda is any plan or proposal to address COVID-19 in state prisons and jails. Last week, Katal members released a statement, featured in the CT Mirror, calling for the General Assembly to develop a comprehensive plan that saves lives and addresses COVID-19 in prisons and jails. Governor Lamont and the legislature must act now to save the lives of incarcerated residents, who are disproportionately Black and Latinx. Jails and prisons are notorious incubators of contagions, due to close quarters and unsanitary conditions, meaning that Governor Lamont and the legislature's inaction in the midst of this public health crisis will result in needless deaths.
As the pandemic continues to spread nationally, correctional facilities make up the 10 worst outbreak sites of COVID-19 in the country. However, Governor Lamont has refused to take the necessary preventive measures to help flatten the curve of COVID-19 within the Connecticut Department of Corrections. This leaves Connecticut as an outlier in the tri-state and nationally as states across the country begin large-scale releases of incarcerated individuals due to the heightened risks of COVID-19. Corrections employees and public health experts have recommended for months the immediate release of incarcerated individuals, highlighting the urgent threat of COVID-19 in jails and prison across the state. With 1,344 positive COVID-19 cases and seven COVID-19 deaths for incarcerated individuals, every day that the Governor and legislature do not act means incarcerated individuals remain in life threatening danger.
Throughout the protest, constituents spoke about Governor Lamont and the legislature's outrageous reluctance to protect kids and adults in Connecticut prisons and jails. Attendees marched around the Capitol, demanding that real justice be given to those behind bars in state prisons and jails. Directly impacted family members and constituents demanded that the elected leaders take swift and aggressive action during this month's special session to decarcerate Connecticut jails and prisons in order to continue to flatten the curve of COVID-19 within the Connecticut Department of Corrections and save lines. Without action, there will be more needless deaths.
Statements from Katal members and family members of people incarcerated in Connecticut:
Isaiah Terry, Member of the Katal Center, said: "If we do not show up for incarcerated people, who will? I could have been in the same situation because of how they treat Black children in school. It could be me sitting in a cell right now during a pandemic. It's time to free them now."
Ashley Blount, Organizer with the #CancelRentCT Coalition, said: "As the Cancel Rent CT coalition, we know that working class families, and specially Black and Brown folks in CT are struggling because of everyday pressures that don’t allow us to cover our basic needs, having to choose between rent and food. Anybody with a loved one in prison or immigration detention knows what this is like. COVID of course has made things worse, with job loss, hours cut, and sickness all around us. And if you got someone on the inside, you know how much heavier the worry is, knowing the incompetence of the state. They don’t take care of our people and today we are standing here because they refuse to do the right thing in this pandemic which is to FREE THEM ALL! We are disproportionately likely to work in the sectors that have been hardest hit by coronavirus-related closures, we are most likely to be criminalized for trying to survive, and as a result we have the highest populations in the prison system. We are demanding that Governor Lamont orders the immediate release of everybody currently in a cage. We stand here and demand that Governor Lamont make a real commitment to taking care of our families by cancelling rent and stopping evictions indefinitely. No more rent increases for at least 5 years! Our communities deserve to be FREE, and our communities need real relief NOW."
Virginia Rodriguez, Member of the Katal Center, said: "It is inhumane to keep people in prisons and jails during a pandemic. As a person with loved ones who are incarcerated, it's sickening. This is a Black lives matter issue, and it is also a public health issue. Families are filled with a void when their loved ones are missing, especially children. End this now and release them!"
Marcus Washburn, Organizer with Black America Undivided, said: "As an organizer with an anti-capitalist abolition group dedicated to amplifying the voices of Black women, Black queer women, Black trans people and Black non-binary people, the issue of people in cages during a global pandemic affects all of us.You cannot be content with your activism that lasted only a few weeks. Even after the initial dust has settled and the black squares are no longer relevant for people to use as their profile picture, Black lives still matter. One step towards true liberation for Black people is to free them now."
Lynn Ofori, Member of the Katal Center, said: "Where is our empathy and our compassion for those who are suffering, hidden in plain sight? They are also our neighbors, our community members in distress. Connectiut rightfully abolished the death penalty eight years ago-- no one currently incarcerated should receive a death sentence because our Governor will not act to release people. Our people deserve dignity and humanity, and the legislature must act if the Governor refuses to do so."
Camila Bortolo, Interim Co-Director of CT Students for a Dream, said: "We are tired of getting crumbs from the Lamont Administration. We demand liberatory policies and systemic solutions from the Lamont Administration, and that includes healthcare access for our undocumented communities and the need to free people from all cages! Our healthcare system in CT discriminates against our undocumented community! We are ineligible for Medicaid and HUSKY, and can’t buy into Access Health CT. Our families cannot seek the proper health care we need. With 120,000 estimated undocumented immigrants residing in our state, this is a massive public health crisis. Given our intersecting work, we stand in solidarity with those who are seeking to #FreeThemNowCT as this affects everyone in a cage."
Andre McGuide, Member of the Katal Center, said: "Our Governor is refusing to listen to his constituents, and legislators, that have been pressing him about this issue. I can only hope that he is able to come to his senses, but that remains to be seen. If the Governor continues to ignore those in his state demanding change, then the legislature must move to free incarcerated people."